It's easy to write guys off. Especially when you get tired of watching four consecutive 90-loss seasons. You look at what they've done for the Major League team, which is to say not much, and sometimes that actually means they helped the team lose more games than if they'd not been on the roster. So when Aaron Hicks, who as recently as 2012 was the Twins number four prospect, hits .194/.284/.314 in his first 129 Major League games and ends up getting demoted in both of his first two seasons for a significant amount of time, well, sometimes those circumstances and performances mean we start looking past that player.
That was a long sentence and I'm sorry. Stick with me.
We know how terrible it's been to watch Hicks try to hit a baseball. It was so difficult that he gave up switch hitting, and then picked it up again, without really involving the organization in his decision. Let's be honest: we were all beginning to think that Hicks' chances of panning out were a little suspect.
When the Twins demoted him to Triple-A in 2013, he made that decision look good in retrospect by hitting .222/.317/.333. Of course he was Minnesota's starting center fielder on Opening Day 2014, for the second year in a row, but that's on the front office as much as its on any new evaluation the Twins managerial staff had of Hicks. It wasn't terribly surprising when they sent him down again, to Double-A this time.
There was something different about Hicks' game this year. He did look more confident at times. In spite of hitting .198, he also posted a .338 on-base percentage which, for reference, is higher than Brian Dozier's, Eduardo Escobar's, Trevor Plouffe's, Oswaldo Arcia's, and Kennys Vargas'. Still, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thought the demotion to Double-A wasn't justified.
Hicks proceeded to show everyone what he thought of being sent down two levels, lighting up Eastern League pitching with an .871 OPS in 43 games. He walked 28 times, struck out 27, and 16 of his 44 hits went for extra bases. So the Twins bumped him up to Triple-A.
In 13 games for the Red Wings, Hicks is batting .298/.370/.426. In 56 games in the minors this season, he's batting .297/.397/.456 with 34 walks and 34 strikeouts.
It's too early, and we've seen too much of him at the Major League level, to buy fully into his performance this year as meaning anything other than he's having a good season away from the spotlight. But it's worth entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, Hicks isn't the toasted prospect we were starting to think he could be.
Hicks is still just 24 years old, and only has 407 Major League at-bats under his belt. That's not even a full season's allocation. He deserves a callup when September comes, and he'll deserve to get most of the starts in center field to show the Twins, us as fans, and himself whether or not he's figured a few things out.
Good luck, Hicks. It's a long way from being over.